I’ve come across a store of well-written and thought-provoking articles by author and Guardian columnist Tim Lott which reflect on creativity and the human condition. I thought some of these might lead us to consider more deeply the uses of storytelling and mythology in training, coaching, therapy and perhaps even in teaching.
Fairytales are not just for fun, he writes.
“As Philip Pullman’s “Grimm Tales” shows, they speak to something deep in the unconscious of adults and children, addressing our darkest fears and anxieties.
“The best stories have a profound resonance within our subconscious minds.
“In Bruno Bettelheim’s ‘The Uses of Enchantment’, these older tales legitimise the darker instincts that all children experience, freeing them from the guilt that such feelings generate”.
He cites Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” – which he mentions was an inspiration to George Lucas as he crafted “Star Wars” – and says that “all great adventure stories are a guide to help us through changes in our life from one place of development to another.”
He mentions that fairytales and myths are designed to affect the “secret self”, and “these portals that lie within us all”, hinting at a psychological and even spiritual resonance.
He adds that “if that primitive resonance is not achieved, storytellers are failing to fulfil what is perhaps their primary function, which is therapeutic – to act as an echo chamber to our deepest fears and desires, and thus help to integrate them into a healthy personality”.
This is what my psychosynthesis approach is all about – integrating the aspects of the psyche which are fragmented and even lost.
And this is the deeper meaning of every adventure, of every myth of wandering, exile, loss, struggle and overcoming, homecoming and final triumph – the journey of the soul through life, the wanderer seeking home, and the heroic and sometimes tragic task of living and becoming whole.
So when using storytelling in our developmental work, there will need to be a hero or heroine, a task, an adventure, an overcoming, an exile for a time and for a purpose, and a homecoming and reunion.
A bit like the pattern of the BPM’s – basic perinatal matrices – which chart our developmental pattern from birth and oneness, through contraction and threat, to struggle and overcoming, to unity and resolution.
A pattern we repeat through life’s crises, and which gives us hope that in the end there is always hope and a meaning to the journey.